Before I heard the phrases conditioner washing or no shampoo routines I often used conditioner when I was a natural newbie to rinse my short hair. I found that using conditioner only was a great way to freshen up my coils without drying them out using shampoo. For this very reason some ladies with natural hair have traded in their shampoo to wash with conditioners. For a specific co-washing regimen read the book Curly Girl by Lorraine Massey.
It is possible to keep your hair clean without using shampoo using conditioner washing. Conditioner only routines can work for some people. Particularly some ladies I know with type 3 hair have found these methods helpful for maintaining their curls.
So what exactly is cowashing or conditioner washing- basically you wash your hair as you normally would except your trade in the shampoo for a conditioner. Typically a light conditioner is used (not a deep conditioner). Often times I notice ladies using cheaper conditioner like Suave and Vo5 for their cowashes.
There are 2 basic ways you can use cowashing: 1) you can completely give up shampoo and only use conditioner 2) you can cowash in between shampoos to freshen up your hair so you don't have to shampoo as frequently. I have tried both options and here are my personal opinions about cowashing.
Pro's of a conditioner washing only routine
Con's of a conditioner washing only routine
My experience with cowashing
I personally tried a no poo routine and I did not like it for my hair texture. Conditioner washing only did not work for me because I had to wash my hair more often and the frequent manipulation led to knots. Also my natural hair responds well to butter and oils and I did not want to stop using these. The conditioner only method did not remove the butters well enough from my hair and I developed build up.
So should you try conditioner washing?
I say give it a try because it may work great for your hair. For type 4 natural hair I think conditioner washing works well when it is short to help maintain moisture. For type 3 hair conditioner washing can help keep curls hydrated. If you like to use heavy product a no shampoo routine may not be for you or if your hair is very dense like mine it may be difficult to cleanse your natural hair with conditioner.
Cowashing without giving up shampoo
In the summer or somtimes after a heavy work out I cowash instead of shampooing to avoid shampooing more frequently. You may want to give cowashing a try if you want to reduce the amount of times you shampoo while still keeping your hair clean. For example you could cowash regularly but use shampoo once a month to remove build up etc... It may take some trial and error to find a cowash routine that works for you.
* MsLala and cowashing- I have to say that cowashing is not part of my regular routine but I still encourage naturals to give it a try. I only cowash occasionally. When my hair was short it worked well but now it is just too much manipulation.